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And No Good Thing Ever Dies

Hope is a good thing,
Maybe the best of things.
And no good thing ever dies.
--Stephen King, The Shawshank Redemption

Chapter One

"You look like hell," Cordelia informed him as he came into the office.

"Thanks, Cordelia. I know I can always count on your complete honesty."

Something in his more-haunted-than-usual expression made her rethink her greeting. "Having trouble sleeping, huh?"

"Yeah," he admitted. "You too? Youíre here early."

"With the state of the visions these days, itís a wonder I can sleep at all. Iím getting bags under my bags."

"You had a vision? What is it? Why didnít you call?" Belatedly, he added, "Are you all right?"

Angel didnít get eager for that many things but he had perked up with the anticipation of a new case. And her health managed to make his hit parade. The day had possibilities.

"Yes to both, and before you get all sweaty - or whatever the creature of the night equivalent is - hereís the info. It came in just as I got here."

She felt Angelís eyes on her and she smoothed her hair just in case it still resembled the usual after-vision birdís nest. Not that Angel would notice. He was after the little piece of paper she was pushing across the desk to him, and had eyes only for what she had scribbled there. She watched as Angel smoothed out the note paper and brought it up to study it. He turned it a bit, maybe to get it in better light, then turned it completely over.

"Whereíd you learn to write?" he complained. "Is this some form of Sunnydale hieroglyphics?"

"Everyoneís a critic. Give it here," she demanded, gesturing for Angel to return the paper. Cordelia tapped the pink square with the eraser end of a pencil she had been twiddling between thumb and index finger. "See, this is UCLA. Somethingís going down at the medical center. I saw a demon - it looked swishy, like it wasnít really solid." Cordelia paused to make a face her colleagues had come to know well. "It had a posse of vamps with it. They were running interference."

Angel had heard enough. "All right. Iím going."

"Want me to come with?" Cordelia offered.


"But you might need help with--"

"No," he cut her off. "Find Wes. Describe the demon to him. Maybe he can ID it by the time I get back. If you get anything before, Iím on the cell."

"OK, boss man. Sheesh. Get up on the wrong side of the coffin this morning?" Cordelia teased, trying to lighten his mood a bit. It never worked the way she wanted, but she never gave up.

"Donít start, all right?"

Without another word, Angel turned and left her alone in the office. Cordelia watched him walk out, a worried frown creasing her brow. Something was up with her boss, and that something didnít look good. Times like this she felt like a chaser on the edge of a storm named Angelus. She put the thought away for future study and went to work finding Wes. Angel would need help, and from the intensity of the vision, heíd need it soon.

Cordy beeped Wes. While she waited for him to call in, she started some research of her own. That demon database was always a good jumping off point. Maybe she could even find the demon before Wes arrived. Wes wasnít a bad guy, Cordy admitted in the privacy of her thoughts, but she enjoyed the challenge of getting under his researchier-than-thou skin whenever possible.

Wes showed up at the offices twenty minutes later. He had that befuddled look about him, like heíd just woken up. "Oh, hello."

"And we didnít call in because...?" Cordy prompted.

"I received the page while stuck in downtown traffic, but since I was on my way in anyway, I decided not to call. "

"And what if it had been an emergency?"

"Then I trust you would have paged me again with the emergency signal we worked out."

Cordelia mumbled a phrase under her breath that would not have pleased her mother. Round one went to Wes, and she didnít much like it. Cordelia tapped her temple. "Itís vision time," she explained to his waiting face.

"Ah, yes. And you have need of my skills. Well, letís get to it. What did you see?"

"Hospital. Vampires. Demon." Cordelia ticked each word off on her fingers. "Angelís en route."

"Oh, dear, should we go to his aid?"

"Heís in Greta Garbo mode."

Wesley removed his glasses and polished the lenses with the hanky he pulled from his pants pocket, the Watchersí version of a thoughtful pause. "Heíll handle it alone, eh?" After looking up at the light to inspect his efforts, Wes fitted the glasses back onto his face and peered at Cordy through the clean lenses. "Can he handle it alone?"

"With the bad mood he was in? I say, yeah, no problem."

"Bad mood? In that case, weíd best get down to brass tacks." Cordy didnít say a word, so Wes translated, "Letís get started."

"Yeah, OK. You need to take some American lessons."

"Cordelia, the vision?"

"All right. Geez. Taskmaster." Cordelia surfed a bit as she related the vision to Wesley, paying only a minimal amount of attention to the screen. "I saw UCLA Medical Center, looked like the main parking lot behind the Emergency entrance, a lot of activity. There were vamps, but it didnít feel like they were the stars of Scary Movie. A demon was calling the shots." Cordy paused, trying to bring the demon into mental focus.

"Yes, go on," Wes prompted. "What did it look like?"

"Thatís just it. It didnít look like anything really. The outline kept shifting, like it wasnít solid. It was all splooshy."

"Splooshy? Cordelia, I donít think I will find Ďsplooshyí in any of our demon compendiums."

"Thatís your problem, book boy."

"You have nothing else?"

Cordy shrugged, then adjusted her halter. "I had enough trouble remembering what I just told you, except -- I donít know for sure but I think itís a girl demon."

"Hmmm. Female, non-solid demon, controls vampires, interested in hospitals. Right. This should be relatively...hard." He glared his displeasure at Cordelia.

"Hey! You try digging the facts out of a vision-mushed brain, then you can do the scoffing thing, Ďkay?"

Wesley glanced up from his book and scrutinized Cordelia. She didnít like the look of pity he sent her way, and stifled a subconscious need to smooth her hair again. "Youíre right. I am sincerely sorry." He inclined his head in apology but Cordelia shrugged it off. "Youíll let me know if you think of anything else?"

"Sure. Thatís my job."

"This is more than a job, Cordelia," Wesley remonstrated, "itís a calling."

Cordelia heaved a sigh. "Blah blah bliddy blah, you ex-Watchers are all alike. I wish the phone would stop ringing, Ďcause all the calls lately have been collect. Theyíre starting to take their toll." Cordelia grimaced at her own bad pun, but Wes made no comment. His head was already buried in another old book.

Something on the notebook screen caught Cordeliaís eye, and she leaned in, Wesley all but forgotten. Her subconscious had been searching for a match to the demon in her vision, and by the looks of the series of graphics spread across the browser window, she had found the answer without any conscious guidance. Cordelia scrolled through the information listed below the pictures and gave a little yip of triumph.

"Something?" Cordelia turned the notebook in Wesleyís direction so he could see for himself. Wesley joined her at the desk to get a closer look. "Yes, I daresay that is something."

Cordelia couldnít help the smug grin that widened in the face of Wesleyís apparent chagrin. "So, you want to give Angel the good news, or should I do the honors?"

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